Written by Scuba Instructors ~ DIVEIN.com’s Complete Guide to:

Diving in Cozumel

Cozumel scuba diving offers everything from abundant marine life to wicked wrecks-turned-reefs. Known as one of the diving capitals of the world, Cozumel’s claim to fame is totally justified. It also has a lot of sites for more intermediate-level divers.

It’s a small island found off the east coast of mainland Mexico, in the warm and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Ocean. 85% of this ocean is a protected habitat. That makes the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park an area teeming with lush life of many varieties.

Everyone knows someone who has been Cozumel and just can’t quit talking about it. For scuba divers, it will be obvious when you read about these sites.

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Palancar Horseshoe

This dive site should be the first of many dive experiences to be made in Cozumel. The Palancar Reef stretches over a winding 3.5 miles. The Horseshoe component comes from a particular feature along the wall of a U-shaped protrusion. Including tunnels and swim-throughs, this site is perfect for beginners exploring and starting to master buoyancy. Starting at a depth of 40ft (12m) to 80ft (24m).

Things to See:

Covering this stretching reef you will be flooded with corals of all colors, sizes and species. The special highlights are the Star, Sheet and Brain Corals that adorn this wall. Be sure to experience the swim-throughs and you will see Glassy Sweepers hanging out in the shade. Look up to see the stunning Creole Wrasse as they dance in the midwater. Immerse yourself in the massive schools of Brown and Blue Chromis swimming just above the reef itself.

Santa Rosa Wall

By far one of the most popular deep dive sites in Cozumel. It is no wonder why, as this site features a towering wall starting at 30ft (15m) and disappears into the abyss. Strong currents can be felt at this site, so it is recommended that divers get their advanced certification before visiting.

Things to See:

Along the reef, you can experience all species of corals from enormous Yellow Sponges to mountains of Greater Starlet and Boulder Brain corals. Coming up from the deep, Horse Eye Jacks may come to greet you or from above the reef,  some curious Great Barracudas may swim nearby. Look out into the deep blue and you may see a Spotted Eagle Ray or Hawksbill turtle materialize as they venture into the shallows!

Casablanca

Literally named after the white house found on the beach, but locally referred to as “Jurassic Park”, this dive site must be in the top 3 of all Cozumel. More than 500 species of fish and creatures gather at this dive site including an astounding 3 species of turtle: the Hawksbill, the Green, and the Loggerhead Turtle.

Things to See:

Venture onto the reef and gently drift with the current and watch the greatest show on earth unfold. This dive site is teeming with life, from Spotted Eagle Rays and Southern Stingrays to giant Green Moray Eels, Caribbean Reef Lobsters, Groupers, Snappers and many more. Multiple Shark species also show up at this site, including Nurse and Reef Sharks and the elusive but exhilarating Bull Shark.

C-53 Felipe Xicotencatl

A must-see for divers with a ‘lust for rust’. This 154ft (53m) ship has a long history, having served in the Second World War as a Minesweeper, sold to the Mexican Navy for patrol in the Caribbean Sea and then finally donated to the Chankanaab Park to be purposely sunk in 1992. Sitting on the sandy bottom at 80ft (24m), this wreck is a must-see for divers with at least 10-15 dives under their weight belt.

Things to See:

With a standard 90ft (28m) visibility, this wreck can be seen almost immediately upon your descent. Penetrate the ship and explore the engine room, the hold and the wheelhouse. Be mesmerized by the large schools of Glassy Sweepers and Glass-Eye Snappers. And be sure to look out for the Green Moray Eel who has made its home in the bunk room. Insider bonus-remember to bring your flashlight so you can clearly see the sponges and hard corals growing on the inside and outside of this beautiful wreck.

Paradise Beach

Just a five-minute swim from shore, this dive site is especially appropriate for divers looking to get acquainted with Cozumel waters. With impressive visibility of 80 ft (24m) on a regular day, this dive site is a great experience on both day and night dives!

Things to See:

A stunning fringing reef adorned in hard and soft corals of vibrant colors. Swimming among the tube corals you can see French and Gray Angelfish and schools of Princess Parrotfish in action as they patrol the reef. At night you can watch Caribbean Reef Lobsters and Clinging Crabs emerge from their holes looking for some dinner.

Barracuda Reef

Crazy, vast visibility. Definitely the highlight of your diving trip to Cozumel. But be warned, it is not for the fainthearted. Located on the north side of the island, this dive site features a steep wall starting from a mere 30ft (10m) to over 3000ft. Strong currents are usually blowing at this site and so it is almost always determined to be a drift dive.

Things to See:

Due to these factors, it is a dive site that is not often visited and is considered to be ‘absolutely virgin’. With a visibility of up to 150ft (45m), this dive site features valleys, mountains and plains. Drift along this site and let the Green, Hawksbill or Loggerhead Turtles approach you. Or watch as a Spotted Eagle Ray or Reef or Nurse shark effortlessly swim by. Of course, as the name is given, there are schools of Barracuda patrolling the tops of the reef always looking for their next meal.

Palancar Caves

Palancar Caves is yet another amazing site along the lengthy Palancar Reef. At a maximum of 90ft (27m), this dive site features swim-throughs, tunnels and caves providing shelter to reef fish and creating an awesome underwater playground for divers to enjoy.

Things to See:

Walls absolutely covered in Gorgonians and purple Sea Fans, Maze, Boulder Brain and Greater Starlet Corals. Swim through these caverns and experience the magic of the light as it dances around you. Look for the vibrant colors of Blue Tang, Sargent Majors, Trumpet Fish, Four Eye- Butterfly Fish and Yellowtail Damselfish. Not to mention schools of Parrot fish of all sizes!

Palancar Gardens

Palancar Gardens is yet another section of the Palancar Reef that is a must-see for Cozumel diving. Reaching a maximum depth of 130ft (40m) this wall is perfect for the intermediate diver looking for a casual drift dive.

Things to See:

During your descent, you will literally pass through schools of Blue and Brown Chromis and the stunning Creole Wrasse to reach this outstanding and colorful reef. Starting at 33ft (10m), this wall begins and then descends into the deep. Drift along this wall and look for Scorpion fish and Flounders casually camouflaging themselves. Or look between the little cliffs and entries to spot huge Clinging Crabs and Caribbean Reef Lobsters.

Tormentos Reef

Reaching a maximum depth of 60ft (18m), this exciting dive site usually experiences a strong current and so is best for drift diving. Usually starting at Yucab and drifting to Tormentos.

Things to See:

At this thriving reef, you can see heads of massive corals reaching up to 30ft (10m) in height! Look for the tunnels and overhangs where you can find large schools of the stunning yellows and blues of the French Grunts. Often sighted here are French and Gray Angelfish, Nurse Sharks, and Black Groupers. The bonus of this dive site is to spot the endemic Splendid Toadfish!

Aerolito de Paraiso

Have you ever been interested in diving a cenote? Why not add it to your accomplishments list during your time in Cozumel?! This Cenote (or sacred sinkhole) is very easily accessible and found just five minutes’ drive from downtown. Only available to advanced divers with a mastery of buoyancy or specialty cave divers, this is truly a unique diving experience.

Things to See:

Slip into the emerald pool and descend into the cenote. Starting through a narrow doorway at 50ft (15m) the canyon shortly becomes wide, dark and depth of more than 3000ft (914m). While resident crocodiles can be found lounging on the surface, beneath holds a mystical world waiting to be explored. You can find juvenile Barracudas, Sea Stars and Slipper Lobsters living in this protected water space.

Punta Tunich

Starting at 65ft (20m), this dive site is best experienced as a drift dive as there are usually strong currents. Starting in a wide flat and sandy area, descend onto the almost vertical wall and drift along this jaw-dropping scenery and watch the marine life unfold as you go by.

Things to See:

Gently drift over this fringing reef and wall, watching valleys of sandy bottoms followed by ridges of corals. You can find beautiful Sea Fans, Gorgonians and Sea-Whips reaching up from the reef and swaying in the currents. Look for French Grunts and many colors and species of Damsel fish. In the sandy valleys, you may see some Garden Eels or Jaw Fish poking their heads out into the current looking for some lunch.

Colombia Wall

Also known locally as “Colombia Regular” this dive site features a stunning wall of over 100ft (30m) in depth! This site has almost everything Cozumel scuba diving is know for. That includes a cave, tunnels and many overhangs to explore with an abundance of big fish.

Things to See:

Drift through this dive site and explore the exciting underwater topography. Look for Great Barracudas and Creole Wrasse hanging in the midwater. Schools of Surgeon-fish are often seen creating streams of blue across the populated reefs. Green and Hawksbill Turtle are a common visitors and sometimes even the ethereal Spotted Eagle Ray. The highlight of this dive is to really appreciate the towering Coral Pillars that are hundreds of years old!

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